When we get into the headspace of fear, our brains automatically focus. It’s a dangerous spot, for example, let’s say someone criticised you, you’re suddenly focused on that. This response is a great thing as it would’ve helped us get out of trouble or physical danger as it increases our alertness. However, when it comes to the context of personal or professional change, it’s a little different.
The Space of Fear
When trying to change into a new way of work or embrace new technology, or even just trying to get ahead to achieve our goals, the second we get into the space of fear, that is when we stop seeing options. The moment we are in that space of fear and anxiety, our ability to be flexible and our IQ suddenly drops. In other words, we are unable to see options and only focus on that fear.
When it comes to change, fear is going to come up. It is a natural response for the brain. The problem is when we start making key decisions for ourselves, our team, our organisation, or even our customers in that space of fear, where our ability to see options is nonexistent. The ability to see all options enables us to come up with better thinking, be creative, and make better decisions. When we can see all options, that creates safety.
Fear and Change
From our change management work at earth2mars we find a lot of the places we work with don’t have a safe space to call out the fear and release it and many of the change management programs we see don’t allow for that space of fear to exist.
This goes back to the change curve where we start off at a high. This is the introduction of a new technology or program that’s going to change the world and life’s going to be great. This jump is necessary but people tend to get lost in that story and all of a sudden they’re in the stage of denial. The start of the curve is where people are inflated and are under the impression that “this is going to be easy” and “this isn’t going to impact me”. This results in them not being able to see the risk.
I go through this on a daily basis as an entrepreneur – I have to face the negatives. When we start looking at risk it suddenly becomes all bad and we suddenly dip on the change curve. This triggers the fear response and cripples people. This is, however, a normal part of going through change. When we come out of the denial stage and straight into pure fear and frustration mode. “What does this mean for my job?” and “What does this mean for my goals?” are come common responses in the dip of the curve.
While this can be terrifying, this stage is necessary for us to assess risk and consider our options. The problem is when we spend too long there, we stop seeing possibilities and it holds us back. So it is important that you identify where you are at on the curve; are you inflated or deflated? If you’re inflated, you won’t see anything past your ego. If you’re deflated, you will be overwhelmed by risk and not take the leap.
Navigating the Fear
This is where a good change manager with good change management skills play an outstanding role in managing the excitement and guiding their clients through the lows. A lot of change managers don’t go there because of their own issues or challenges. My advice for coaches or change managers is that you work on your issues or challenges on a daily basis so that when your clients’ fears show up you are not projecting your fears in your change delivery.
A good change manager can identify the stages of the curve where their clients are in and bring them back to neutral ground. It’s about helping the client reach a middle ground of understanding that change is exciting and acknowledging that there could be risks. A good change manager will build in the space for acknowledging the fear and have strategies in place to reframe the fear mindset.
I believe that if your audience is resisting change, that is brilliant feedback. They are telling you that they feel safe enough to acknowledge their fears. The ones you should be worried about are the ones in denial who tells you that they love the program but tells their team they hate it.
Embracing the Resistance
Fear is a key starting point in change. There is bound to be resistance whenever it comes to change – change managers, learn to embrace this. Resistance to change is not necessarily a negative thing. If you think about some of the craziest inventions out there, like flying, the internet, or space travel, this was all achieved after they pushed through all the resistance telling them that they can’t do it. Once they did it, it became the norm.
When we start alienating people when fear of change comes up for them, we’re losing out on our biggest assets as they are the ones who would tell you what others are too afraid to. It’s vital we include them into the program because they are your best challenges who can also become your best champions.
Achieving Clarity in Change
It’s easy to change the language used in an organisation. If you’re finding that change is easy and fear is not coming up, you are not doing change. Real change means a change in behaviour, a change in mindset, and a change in how you actually show up. Not uncomfortable? Why are you even doing change in the first place? Change has to be uncomfortable!
Change management is about creating space for the commitment, fun, energy, benefits, and also the shit that comes up. Only after you’ve worked through those fears can you focus and get people leading teams. That clarity only happens after you’ve broken through the fear.
Change the Modern Martian Way
Our change management course for facilitators and trainers is launching in October and we’re looking for the next captains of change managers, life long learners looking to expand their skills, opportunities and make long-lasting change the modern martian way and support organisations as they address culture and technology disruptions.
We built this with the strong belief that everyone has a place in the future. It’s time to do things differently and challenge the old school mindset.
What do you want your legacy to be? Take 5 minutes to fill out this form here.